Type: Neighborhood Tacos
In my taco travels there have been many times I have come across taquerias located within a small grocery. This particular place was recommended to me by two different people, so I made the jaunt down to Little Village at 9pm on a Sunday not too long before closing time. I was the only person there.
The restaurant, which was larger than the convenience store area, was filled with interesting knick knacks and tchotchky’s. Like some kind of tiny Mexican Bennigan’s, it felt a bit like I was attending a child’s birthday party at a taqueria. Streamers and cartoon characters hung from the ceiling, and photos of relatives and a candy repository located on the back wall decorated the business. It somehow managed to feel like a taco stand, a grocery store and a candy store all at the same time.
I ordered at the ordering “window” and I could see two large vats of something i couldn’t make out, mostly likely something delicious. I ordered cabeza, pastor, asada, and sweetbread tacos. La Chaparrita being the type of place not to let any part of the animal go to waste, they also had a brain taco, which your brave hero was not quite brave enough to try, because this is Chicago Taco Talk and not an episode of Parts Unknown.
I waited about 5 minutes, and the waitress brought out my tacos, along with some chips and two different types of salsas. The tacos were reminiscent of street tacos. Meaning, they were small, somewhat greasy, and packed full of flavor. The tortillas had been briefly fried up on the griddle, and all tacos were topped with cilantro and onion. The steak taco holy crap, it was good. They don’t mess around in Little Village, and this steak taco was packed with flavor crystals or whatever bullshit makes it taste good. It came out as one big slab of steak, which I was worried would impede my ability to eat the taco. But instead it just tasted amazing. Truth be told, after I finished my other tacos, I ordered one more.
The al pastor taco was just as delicious as the steak, although a little on the toasty side. Personally, I kind of prefer this, as long as it doesn’t taste burnt. A smattering of pineapple and i believe some grilled onions, it was good taco overall. The cabeza taco was tender and pulled, although lacking seasoning and flavor of the previous two. Still a decent taco, I would probably add a little salt to this one.
The sweetbread taco…let me tell you. I’ve had sweetbreads before, and they were delicious. It was a pleasant experience, and if it hadn’t been, I would have been much more hesitant to try this bad boy out. And you know what? It was weird. Out of all my taco experiences…this was the most unpleasant I’ve had. I hate to say this for fear I might sound like I’m not open to new types of food, or have discerning taste, but it was just really, really slimy, and soft. Almost like someone had dipped some tofu cubes in a slime of their choice, nuked it for 30 seconds, and dropped in a tortilla. I can’t even describe the taste, but i’m guessing the best word would probably be “acquired”.
Overall, this joint in Little Village is a pretty amazing throwback and feels more authentic and genuine than your typical taco joint. I don’t know if it was the various anatomy available or the shrines to the owner’s relatives plastered throughout the restaurant / store, but I imagine they come pretty close to what you would get on the streets of Mexico. I did pass the prison on the way here, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the first stop for peeps comin’ out the cooler. It is located deep inside a residential neighborhood, so this is more of a neighborhood joint than anything else. Tacos were cheap, I believe around 2 bucks each, and service was good. They give you little chiclets when you’re done with your meal. One thing I failed to mention…the red salsa. Oh man, this was some spicy stuff. It blazed a trail through my insides for the next 24 hours. Beware.
I give La Chaparrita 4.0 out of 5 chiles. 🌶🌶🌶🌶